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Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder
Live at the Charleston Music Hall

Review By Steven Stone
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Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder Live at the Charleston Music Hall

CD Number: Skaggs Family Records


  Recently someone on an online mandolin discussion group I frequent enquired as to whether they should go see Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder's live show. If only they had heard this new CD they never would have asked such a silly question. Live at the Charleston Music Hall proves without a doubt that Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder is one of the hottest bands in Bluegrass. From the opening notes of their scorching rendition of "Black Eyed Suzie" through their sizzling encore song, 9:44 minutes of "Get Up John" this musical amalgam proves that when played by Kentucky Thunder, "Bluegrass Rules."

Recorded in November 2002, on two successive nights at the Charleston Music Hall in South Carolina, this live album features over an hour of remarkable music. This musical amalgam comprised of Cody Kilby on guitar, Bobby Hicks on fiddle, Jim Mills on banjo, Paul Brewster on guitar and tenor vocals, Andy Leftwich on mandolin and fiddle, Darrin Vincent on harmony, guitar, and mandolin, Mark Fain on bass, and guest Jeff Taylor on accordion and pennywhistle deserve every accolade they have received. With nine members, any lesser band could easily turn music into a dense sludge, but Kentucky Thunder's sound has a clarity and exactitude that eludes even many smaller groups.

Combining bluegrass standards such as Carter Stanley's "How Mountain Girls Can Love", Flatt and Scrugg's "Why Did You Wander," Red Smiley's "I Heard My Mother Call My Name," Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen" and "Get Up John" with more contemporary fare such as Harley Allen's "A Simple Life," Mac MacAnally's "Somewhere Nice Forever," Harry Chaipin's "Cat's In The Cradle" and three Ricky Scaggs-penned instrumentals, shows Kentucky Thunder's broad scope and perfect command of the wide variety of musical styles known collectively as bluegrass. Their precise three-part harmonies combined with scintillating solos performed at blistering speeds can't help but make you wonder if these dudes are really human.

Gammy winning engineer Brent King captures Kentucky Thunder's live pyrotechnics beautifully. The recording never obscures the band's remarkable ability to play fast and clean with power and delicacy. Want to hear what Bill Monroe's homespun combination of string band music and country blues has evolved into? Pick up a copy of Live at the Charleston Music Hall to discover the vibrancy of bluegrass music in the hands of contemporary masters.




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